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Manage Win10 Drivers Using DISM

Insider Preview Build 16199 was released for Windows 10 a couple of days ago (5/17). In the wake of its install, I checked on Windows 10 drive handling. To that end, I consulted the Reliability Monitor, which shows driver installs as it tracks system changes and errors. Sure enough, Relimon reports that drivers for all devices on a PC get installed during the upgrade process (see screen capture). This spurred today’s blog post, as I explain how to manage Win10 drivers using DISM. In fact, this tool can back up and restore drivers associated with any given Windows image.

A quick peek at “Informational Events” on upgrade day (5/17) shows installs for all device drivers on each upgraded PC.

Why Manage Win10 Drivers Using DISM?

Any time you run the Windows installer, you run the risk that it won’t find one or more drivers. Some of these can be critical, as my long-time experience with pre-release technical previews of Windows 10 taught me. On my test PCs, I sometimes had to supply a driver for Killer NIC adapters (fixed since the 1607 version last year) after an upgrade install. Ditto for a Dell/Atheros 1537 wireless adapter on my test tablet. YMMV as far as driver coverage goes in Windows 10. Thus, it’s best to be prepared to fill in where MS fails to find everything driver-wise.

Simply put, the answer to the question posed in this section’s heading — namely: “Why manage Win10 drivers using DISM?” — is “Because it’s easy and fast.” If a PC’s drivers are all current and correct before you perform a Win10 upgrade, you can use DISM to back them up in under two minutes. After an upgrade, you can use that backup to restore individual drivers via Device Manager/Update driver, or perform a wholesale replacement of all drivers using DISM.

How to Manage Win10 Drivers Using DISM

At the command line, DISM backs up drivers using this syntax:

 Dism /Online /Export-Driver /Destination:{DL}:{FS}

 Here {DL} stands for drive-letter, and {FS} for folder specification, so that you’d enter /Destination:D:\DriverBk if you wanted to create the driver backup in a folder named “DriverBk” on the D drive.

The corresponding command for grabbing all drives from such a backed-up folder is:

 Dism /Online /Add-Driver /Driver:{DL}:{FS} /Recurse

Please note that this latter approach simply adds those drivers to the DriverStore in Windows 10. DISM doesn’t remove drivers already present after an upgrade install. That’s why most experts, and yours truly, recommend that you use Device Manager to identify devices that need drivers. Instead, you can right-click those devices one at a time, then use the Update driver capabilities to point at your driver folder as the update source instead.

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